Isaac Aesili is no stranger to the NZ Music Scene. Having played, toured and collaborated with some of the country’s top artists, he has now joined forces with vocalist Rachel Fraser to create Funkommunity and release their debut album “Chequered Thoughts” which is out now. Over the past decade, Isaac has been an integral part of many Kiwi acts such as Solaa, Opensouls, Recloose Live and Eru Dangerspiel plus has toured as a guest musician with iconic New Zealand bands Trinity Roots and Shapeshifter.
How did you first get into music?
My parents were both musical. My dad plays trombone and sings and my mum plays keys and sings. Music was always there it just took trying a few instruments before i was hooked on trumpet.
Who are your musical influences?
Stevie first and foremost, Marvin, Donny, Curtis, D’Angelo, Erykah, SaRa, Flylo, Dam, Miles, Fela, Mulatu, Alice, Debussy. Im mostly into any manifestations of Funk and Soul but my background is Classical and Jazz music.
You are a multi instrumentalist which one do you prefer to play and why?
Trumpet is my main instrument, im most fluent on trumpet and it is the most natural instrument for me to express on but the sudio is my favourite instrument cause its the most fun.
Your first solo project “Eye See” featured some of NZ’s best artists was it a hard process in making the album with so many people involved?
The album was a pleasure to make and produce and i loved working and collaborating with all the artists but it was laborious logistically and expensive financially to work with so many on one album.
The Karl Marx Project is something you are working on with your younger brother how does it differ from the other albums you have out?
Its a side project when me and my bro get to make instrumental sci fi futuristic soundtrack music for fun. Its something we accidentally fell into after making jams for kicks so we are gonna keep the experimental vibe and just see where the flow takes us. For me personally its a refreshing artistic outlet and a good way to connect with my bro.
With so many great voices in New Zealand what made you specifically want to work with Rachel Fraser on the Funkommunity project?
When i moved to Auckland 10 years ago, i knew i would one day work with polynesian vocalists. Auckland is the capital of Polynesia and there is so much vocal talent. I wasnt even a producer back then but i had a dream to make R&B with female vocals cause it was one of my favourite styles to listen to. It was the tone of Rachel’s voice and her natural maturity as a vocalist i was instantly inspired by, but as then as we worked together i realised she is also an amazing lyricist. Rachel had all the vocal qualities i had ever dreamed of working with and so i put energy into our collaborations.
When did the connection with Rachel first come about?
It was a band thing. Through Solaa and Opensouls i ended up working with many NZ vocalists like Ladi6, Hollie Smith and Tyra Hammond. While touring with Recloose Live I met Rachel and we clicked instantly.
How did you come up with Funkommunity and whats the meaning behind it?
After the first few tracks on my solo album, Rachel and I started doing more songs together. Over a year we completed our first album Chequered Thoughts and so we put a band together to perform it live… Funkommunity was born.
Creatively how do you and Rachel work is it as simple as you making the music and her writing the lyrics or do you collaborate on both?
The majority of our work is us working in our respective separate producer / vocalist roles but we are open and honest so we sometimes end up collaborating across roles. The way we make sure we vibe is by conceptualizing and brainstorming. We tend to take breaks in recording sessions and paint mental pictures with free flowing descriptions of abstract concepts that relate to the song we are working on. Its like cognitive improvisation that helps us understand each other.
Describe the Funkommunity sound?
Soulful Funk with futuristic textures.
What’s you favourite track off the “Chequered Thoughts” album and why?
The Light, its positive, it makes me feel its all good every time i hear it.
After working with so many established musicians in your career did you think this helped you in your approach to your own musical projects?
Absolutely, I owe everything i have achieved to those who support and inspire me. My family and my extended family in the NZ music community are my rock. Without them none of this would have been possible.
New Zealand is such a small country but has a wealth of talented artists whose music seems to travel well internationally why do you think this is?
The unique perspective NZ has and our diverse cultural influences make our music attractive to a broad international audience. The qualities you hear in a nation’s music are dictated by the overall shape and colour of the society. Auckland is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world. In NZ our cultural landscape is extremely rich especially with so much Maori and Polynesian influence. NZ’s musical talent is healthy because of this.
For someone not familiar with NZ music which 5 artists would you tell them to check out?
Julien Dyne, Electric Wire Hustle, Ladi6, Lord Echo, Christoph El Truento
What project has been the most satisfying working on and why?
Funkommunity because its the first album im 100% proud of.
Which artists would you most like to work with?
Onra, Dam Funk
Funkommunity are soon relocating to Europe what do you hope to achieve while you are out there?
We are going to tour our album in Europe for 3 months and try and set up for next year.
Who has given you the best piece of advice and what was it?
Nat King Cole – Nature Boy ‘ “the greatest thing you could ever learn, is to love and be loved in return”
Whats does the future hold for Isaac Aesili?
Funkommunity album #2 is my main priority but as usual many side projects and collaborations.
What’s your definition of Grindin’?
Where its at.